Vantage point

Friday, July 25, 2003


I asked for the finger bowl. We were having a great time. After a week of eating the bland food in our mess, meals like these really hit the spot. The waiter came with the finger bowl. He was wearing a crisp starched white shirt. He also got the bill in a brown folder. It wasn't a party this time, but TTMM (which is Puneri slang for "going dutch").

"How much should we tip?" One guy asked.

"20 rupees should be fine" another said.

"I am totally opposed to the concept of tipping" said a guy who does not resemble Steve Buscemi from Reservoir Dogs.

"You know, they offer us a service...." said magnanimous guy.

"Wearing starched white shirts!!" I interrupted. Magnanimous guy looked irritated at this interruption.

"What do shirts have anything to do with it? They provide us good service and they deserve to get paid for it. Simple!"

"Yes, but they do get salaries!" said non-Buscemi.

And so the conversation went till we got around to pulling somebody's leg about what sort of girls he likes. It was 10:20 at night. Walking back to Puraniya crossing would have made us miss the last bus to the campus.

"Rickshaw!!!", we hailed two cycle rickshaws, three of us in each rick. This is how cycle rickshaws look like, by the way. My rick was pulled by a youngish guy of about 15, wearing shorts and a vest.

"Jaldi chalo bhaiyya, humey bus pakadni hai(please go fast we have to catch a bus)" one of us said. He got into action. I noticed how his calf muscles would flex as he pedalled. He was very efficient and though there were 3 of us in the rickshaw instead of the usual 2, he got us to Puraniya crossing well before time.

Magnanimous guy got down and gave the rickwallah 7 rupees.

"Bhaiyya, duss rupaye huey (it is 10 rupees)" the fella protested.

"Duss rupaye?" he said incredulously "nahi nahi, humesha to paanch hotey hai. Hum teen thhe isliye 7 de raha hoon" (Why 10? usually it takes 5 rupees. I am giving you 7 because there were 3 of us).

The haggling went on for a while, which involved discussion with the guys in the other rickshaw. Their fella was asking for 8, so our fella was also forced to take 8 bucks. He pocketed the money with an expressionless face.

"Ten bucks, he had the nerve to ask for ten bucks!!" magnanimous guy said.

"I know, and he wasn't even wearing a starched white shirt" I said looking at the 15 year old's bulging calf muscles as he pedalled away.